Highlights of Exemplary Practices Aligned with the 18 Characteristics of Successful Middle Schools
Characteristic #2: The school environment is welcoming, inclusive, and affirming for all
The climate and culture of Laveen Elementary is grounded in positive relationships and serves as the foundation for academic growth, increased student attendance rates, consistent parent involvement, research-based instructional practices, innovative behavioral intervention programs, the initiation of school-wide social-emotional learning programs and the highest staff attendance and retention rate in the district. As a Title 1 school, it is essential to meet the needs of every member of our school family. This perspective has evolved into the understanding that we are an “ohana,” where “no family member is left behind or forgotten.”
Characteristic #3: Every student’s academic and personal development is guided by an adult advocate
Laveen is committed to the personal and academic wellness of each of its students. Each day 5th-8th grade students start the day in smaller advisory groups. Our advisory program is designed to create a strong support system that students need to develop academically, socially, and emotionally. By leveraging a robust 5th - 8th grade advisory program within a student-centered master schedule, students are more engaged, supported, and have every opportunity to thrive on campus.
Characteristic #5: Comprehensive counseling and support services meet the needs of young adolescents
The Student Success Team (SST) monitors the climate and culture of the school. This group consists of the assistant principal, both school counselors, the mindfulness coordinator and the behavior monitor. The SST meets weekly to discuss the social and emotional needs of individual students. Each team member provides updates on observations and student progress, supporting a restorative justice model. The SST works collaboratively with the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) grade-level team leaders to provide comprehensive support to all students.
Characteristic #9: Curriculum is challenging, exploratory, integrative, and diverse.
The middle school elective teachers design courses to meet the needs and interests of early adolescents based on student forecasting. Courses change each year, based on exploratory interests. In addition, Laveen provides opportunities for middle level students to sharpen talents or learn new skills by providing responsive curriculum and robust after school programming options.
Characteristic #10: Health, wellness, and social-emotional competencies are supported in curricula, school-wide programs, and related policies.
Having middle school students understand that they hold the key to being the “best version of themselves” is vital for their personal and academic success and for the cultivation of a positive school climate and culture. These goals are achieved through the school’s signature mindfulness program, which includes:
- Two full-time school counselors trained in mindfulness and yoga
- One full-time mindful school coordinator trained in trained in mindfulness and yoga
- 100+ teachers and staff trained in the foundations of mindfulness through mindfulschools.org
- “Second Step” social-emotional learning curriculum taught in grades PreK-8
- Student leadership opportunities (e.g., mindful mentors)
- Before school and after school yoga and breathing classes offered for all students and families
- Daily classroom breathing exercises to help students focus and excel
- A dedicated “healing room” to allow students to reset and refocus
Characteristic #18: Organizational structures foster purposeful learning and meaningful relationships.
Grade levels meet on a weekly basis and collaborate with the mindset of “planning and teaching with intention” to consistently foster a middle school learning environment that is relevant, challenging, participatory and motivating for all learners.
Teachers develop plans of action by creating and executing lessons in intervention and academic blocks. The middle school schedule has been created to provide individualized structured intervention and enrichment blocks for math and reading. For example, daily pre-algebra and algebra courses are offered, while other students work on acceleration goals to meet grade-level standards.